In brief

  • An Indian banking services provider is to allow customers to transact with cryptocurrencies at 22 physical branches.
  • The service will be provided by the United Multistate Credit Cooperative Society in partnership with crypto banking platform Cashaa.
  • It means that, for the first time, customers can physically access cryptocurrencies, or take out a loan against their holdings.

Indian banking services provider the United Multistate Credit Cooperative Society today announced plans to offer cryptocurrency services in 22 of its branches.

The joint venture with crypto banking platform Cashaa means that, for the first time, the society’s customers will be able to walk into a branch to buy and sell Bitcoin and a host of other cryptocurrencies or take out a loan against their holdings.

“We are the first regulated financial institution in the world with physical branches where users can access crypto products,” said Dinesh Kukreja, the co-op bank’s managing director, and CEO of the new venture, “UNICAS.”

Cooperative banks and societies play a key role in India’s economy—particularly in rural areas, where they serve small industries and workers. They are regulated under India’s Cooperative Societies Act, 1912, rather than by banking regulations.

UNICAS will launch operations in December 2020, according to the announcement, and “rapid expansion to over 100 branches” is planned by 2022. The services will be offered in 22 “Crypto Lounges” in Delhi, Gujarat, and Rajasthan—states with a population of 150 million.

In addition to physical branches, UNICAS will provide online crypto banking services, and allow account holders to integrate their crypto wallets with their accounts. 

Customers will initially be able to buy and sell Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum ( ETH), Binance (BNB), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), EOS, Litecoin (LTC), Ripple (XRP), and Cashaa (CAS).

India's new crypto landscape

In March 2020, India's Supreme Court overturned a ban by the Reserve Bank of India on working with businesses that deal with crypto, paving the way for crypto exchanges to once again operate in the country. Although the regulatory situation remains uncertain, Indian crypto industry insiders are confident that a blanket ban will not be introduced.

To the contrary, reports suggest that India’s ballooning cross-border remittances (the nation consistently has the highest number in the world), the instability of the rupee, and more confidence in the regulatory environment, point to a significant increase in its crypto market share.

For crypto companies, business in India is booming; in the two days after the banking ban was lifted in March 2020, UK-based Cashaa saw an 800% jump in its operations there. It's recently raised $5 million from Dubai-based investment fund O1EX in order to expand its Indian operations.